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  News & Views Monday 5th December to Sunday 11th December 2016  
Europe Can No Longer Pretend to Respect Human Rights

Anger is building at the return of refugees from Europe to war zones and the EU’s deals with dictators and torturers to prevent refugees from leaving their own countries.  In the first of two articles, Frances Webber looks at the EU’s deals with Afghanistan and Turkey. The second article will examine the deals with African states.

Every good liberal abhors Trump, whose pre-election pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexico border was greeted with displays of self-righteous outrage in Europe. But the EU’s response to the refugee crisis has gone further: not merely allowing the construction of walls and fences, and equipping military patrols to keep the refugees from its borders, but also embracing dictators and war criminals, returning refugees to war zones, and ditching human rights clauses in trade and aid agreements in favour of demands for help in stopping the refugees from leaving repression and torture. And the UK is an enthusiastic partner in this project.

Read more: Frances Webber, IRR News, http://tinyurl.com/h6u93a
Death In Morton Hall IRC

Detainees report that the Home Office signed the man’s release papers whilst the man was in hospital, heavily suggesting that the Home Office wanted to release the man from their responsibility before he would die, in an attempt to avoid the accusation of a second death in detention within one week.

The second death in UK detention centres in a week, yesterday (06/12/16) a man, aged 49, died who had been detained for 2 years, having lived in the UK for 27 years. Although detention is described by the Home Office as a place in which people awaiting removal are to be held for the shortest possible time, the death of this man highlights once again how untrue this contention is. The man who died had no viable way to be removed from the UK and had not been issued with travel documents during the whole 2 years he was in detention, yet he continued to be detained until his death. According to detainees also held in Morton Hall detention centre, the man fell sick on Monday, and was kept in his room by staff – who said they would return – for over 3 hours until they finally called for an ambulance which took him to the hospital, where he died. The Home Office are allegedly saying that he died of “natural causes” – the same Home Office who said that Jimmy Mubenga had simply been “taken ill” on the plane and died – leaving it to passengers who came forward with testimonies of what actually happened, as 2 G4S guards restrained him until he couldn’t breathe anymore and died.

Detainees in Morton Hall said that he was a nice guy, who spent a lot of time helping other people with their cases in detention and was the first to offer support to other people who were detained. Those who have contacted us from detention have asked us to inform the media and spread this information. They are angry at the unjust detention that doesn’t have a time limit in the UK, the aggressive and inhumane treatment by guards, and the lack of medical and healthcare access in detention.

Source Unity Centre: http://tinyurl.com/hbg5kr7
Dianne Ngoza Released From Yarl's Wood IRC

Judge cites her strong community links

Dianne Ngoza was released from Yarl's Wood detention centre today (Tuesday 6th December).

She was granted bail by an immigration judge at the Court at Yarl's Wood IRC this morning and will be travelling back to the North West later today. Dianne will be attending the RAPAR annual meeting at Friends' Meeting House in Manchester tonight so she can thank supporters personally. Dianne said: "At least now I can go home and eat my vegan food I'm so grateful.  Thank you so much to all my supporters. I am profoundly touched by your kindness." Dianne has friends and supporters throughout the North West.

Kathryn Clay of Barrow, Lancashire, who was in court today, says: "The judge did a very thorough and fair assessment of the case and concluded that she should be released on bail and I am delighted. This evening we will be enjoying a celebration in our home with Dianne and her daughter." Also in court was Anthony Brown from Clitheroe who says:  "It's a very heartwarming decision. I was shocked by how frail she was and struck by how strong she is despite that."

At the hearing today, it was argued that the initial reasons for detaining her were no longer valid.  The judge found that removal was not imminent and that Dianne poses no risk of absconding.

Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, who was also in court said: "The judge specifically remarked on Dianne's strong ties to the community and he made a special mention of the petition Dianne's many supporters have signed."

For More Information Please Contact Kath Grant 07758386208 or Rhetta Moran 07776264646


Yarl's Wood IRC Demonstration Draws 2,000 Campaigners

The largest protest staged against Britain’s most notorious detention centre has taken place, as up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside Yarl’s Wood to denounce “immigrant bashing” in the wake of the Brexit vote. Campaigners from across the UK protested at the Bedfordshire immigration removal centre on Saturday, demanding that the facility, which mainly houses women, is closed immediately. They said Yarl’s Wood had become an even more toxic symbol when viewed against the rising hate crime, xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that had gathered momentum in the wake of the EU referendum.  On Saturday afternoon hundreds marched around the centre’s perimeter, many waving placards demanding an end to immigration detention. One said “you are not forgotten” in reference to the estimated 400 women held inside.

Read more Mark Townsend, Guardian, http://tinyurl.com/hletuea
Nigeria: Women and the Boko Haram Insurgency

Boko Haram's rise and insurgency have dramatically changed the lives of thousands of women and girls, often casting them voluntarily or by force into new roles outside the domestic sphere. Some joined to escape their social conditions; others were abducted and enslaved. Seven years of war have caused gender-specific suffering. While men have disproportionally been killed, women are an overwhelming majority among the estimated 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North East. As former wives, slaves or fighters, many bear the stigma of association with the insurgents and are barred from reintroduction into their communities, in part because the lines between militant, sympathiser and forced accomplice are blurred. Although Boko Haram faces strong pushback, it remains capable oflaunching attacks and conducting multiple suicide bombings. Understanding how women experience the conflict, not only as victims but also as actors, needs to directly inform policies and programs to tackle the roots of the insurgency and strategies for curbing it, as well as facilitate women's contribution to lasting peace.

Since its emergence in 2002, Boko Haram has paid particular attention to women in rhetoric and actions, partly because of the intense debate surrounding their role in society in the North East. Among other revivalist Islamic movements, the sect called for tighter restrictions on them in some areas oflife but also promoted their access to Islamic education and offered financial empowerment. With patriarchy, poverty, corruption, early marriage and illiteracy long thwarting their life chances, some women saw an opportunity in Boko Haram to advance their freedoms or reduce their hardship. Many valued the religious and moral anchoring.

Thereafter, Boko Haram began to abduct women and girls for both political and pragmatic ends, including to protest the arrest of female members and relatives of some leaders. The seizure of more than 200 schoolgirls near Chibok in 2014 was a much publicised spike in a wider trend. The group took Christian and later Muslim females to hurt communities that opposed it, as a politically symbolic imposition of its will and as assets. By awarding "wives" to fighters, it attracted male recruits and incentivised combatants. Because women were not considered a threat, female fol­lowers and forced conscripts could initially circulate in government-controlled areas more easily, as spies, messengers, recruiters and smugglers. For the same reason, from mid-2014, Boko Haram turned to female suicide bombers. Increasingly pressed for manpower, it also trained women to fight.

Read more: International Crisis Group, http://tinyurl.com/gspqhtq

Zimbabwe: Human Rights 

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the treatment of Zimbabwean citizens by the government of Zimbabwe. [HL3440] 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: In recent weeks we have noted with increasing concern the heavy-handed response of the authorities to peaceful and lawful demonstrators, and violence against opposition parties and social activists. We regularly call upon the Zimbabwean Government to end human rights abuses and restore internationally accepted standards. On 18 November our Ambassador and EU Heads of Mission in Harare issued a statement expressing concern at the increase in incidents, in violation of the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution. 


Racial Violence and the Brexit State

In a pioneering study the IRR takes a fresh look at the nature of racial hate crimes since the referendum. Through a detailed examination of cases on the IRR’s unique database it establishes a link between the language and behaviour of perpetrators of such violence, the rhetoric and policy pronouncements of politicians over recent years and the stigmatising frameworks of the media. ‘It is convenient to condemn the “spike” in violence this summer as the acts of a thuggish minority, but an examination of over one hundred cases shows a link between the language and behaviour of perpetrators and the rhetoric and policy pronouncement of politicians’, said IRR researcher, Dr. Jon Burnett.

The racism evidenced in attacks revealed the following in perpetrators: an affirmation the country was theirs again; cultural norms could be reasserted; racism was linked to ‘entitlement’; anti-migrant and anti-Muslim racism intersected; new racisms rooted in former racisms. Above all, the briefing paper states, the attacks had their gestation within policy measures which expressed the same aim/sentiments as the abuse witnessed in June/July 2016. Of the 134 incidents (which ranged from graffiti on public buildings to stabbings) examined in this research, 84 per cent took place in England, 7 per cent in Northern Ireland, 6 per cent Wales and 3 per cent Scotland. Seventy-five per cent of all cases involved interpersonal racial abuse and 70 per cent of perpetrators were known to be white and British. Where the ethnicity/background of victims was known, 22 per cent were Muslim and 21 per cent eastern European.

Read more: IRR News Team, http://tinyurl.com/jqkzpqy


Demanding the Impossible - Home Office Mistreatment of Expert Medical Evidence

Freedom from Torture must be congratulated for this excellent report ’Proving Torture’. It clearly sheds light on what many of us working within the complex field of assessment of torture have been perturbed by for years - seemingly bizarre Home Office decisions in some asylum claims. These are decisions which appear to fly in the face of medical and psychological evidence which has been properly identified, documented and interpreted by those with specific expertise working to internationally accepted standards.

The UN endorsed Istanbul Protocol is a model of multi-professional, robust international consensus providing clear guidelines as to how physical and psychological evidence of torture should be gathered and the findings put in a readily accessible form for any justice system. The clinician’s role when undertaking such an assessment is to be ‘objective and unbiased’, meaning that far from believing everything they are told, in some cases, a clinician may come to the conclusion that a claimant’s account is not consistent with the medical findings (in which case the legal representative must decide whether to use the evidence). The role of this assessment is to assist the judicial system to come to the correct decision. In order for that to happen, an appropriate physical or psychological assessment by a trained clinician with appropriate expertise is crucial.

Worryingly, this research finds that in some instances asylum caseworkers in the UK appear to apply the incorrect standard of proof to the claimant’s account, not at the ‘reasonably likely’ level as the law requires, but closer to the criminal standard – ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. In part this appears to be due to a lack of understanding that in a medical and psychological setting it is not possible to work in absolutes.

Download the full report: http://tinyurl.com/gn4ptu8


UNHCR Calls For New Vision in Europe’s Approach to Refugees

Scenes of chaos at borders last year led to a breakdown in the public’s trust in the capacity of governments to manage the refugee challenge and played into the hands of those who wanted to turn those fleeing for their lives into scapegoats, the head of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR declared today. Presenting a paper to the European Union (EU) calling for a far-reaching reform of Europe's global engagement with refugees, including the European asylum system, Filippo Grandi said Europe in 2015 failed to implement a collective, managed response to the challenges posed by the arrival of over a million refugees and migrants.

Grandi, who took over as UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2016, said: “This resulted in scenes of chaos at borders, leading to a breakdown in the public’s trust in the capacity of governments to manage the situation and playing into the hands of those who wanted to turn refugees into scapegoats.” He said it was important to counter this with a collective effort. “It is important that EU Member States show, through collective action, that Europe is capable of engaging effectively and in a principled manner with refugee movements, helping to stabilize refugee flows over the long term through more strategic external engagement - while at the same time, continuing to welcome refugees in Europe,” he added.

Read more: UNHCR, http://tinyurl.com/gnehasr
Murder Inquiry After Immigration Centre Detainee Dies in Fight

Police have launched a murder investigation after a 64-year-old immigration detainee died following a fight in a detention centre close to Heathrow. Officers were called to an assault at the Colnbrook immigration removal centre in west London on Thursday morning, but the man died in hospital 12 hours later at 9.30pm. A 32-year-old man remains in custody, while two others, aged 31 and 35, have been released with no further action. Colnbrook has the capacity to hold up to 396 men and 27 women. It is run by Home Office subcontractors Mitie Care and Custody.

Read more: Diane Taylor, Guardian, http://tinyurl.com/jswlszl
Grace Period For Leave to Remain Now Abolished

The 28-day period within which an out-of-time further leave to remain application could have been made is abolished from 24th November 2016. Prior to 24th November 2016, the Immigration Rules allowed for someone whose leave had expired, to submit an application for further leave to remain within 28 days of expiry of their leave. Following the change announced on 3rd November 2016, the out of time application will be considered only if it was made within 14 days of the expiry of the applicant's leave and if the Secretary of State considers that there is a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative (to be detailed in or with the application) why an in-time application could not be made. There is no definition of "good reason" and so, it seems, this will be down to interpretation by the caseworker in all cases presenting before them. Caseworkers may expect some guidance around this.
 
The Home Office explained the need for the change as follows: "This 28-day period was originally brought in so that people who had made an innocent mistake were not penalised, but retaining it sends a message which is inconsistent with the need to ensure compliance with the United Kingdom's immigration laws". Therefore the decision was made to abolish the 28-day grace period. Changes have also been made so that people who used the 28-day grace period in the past will still be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of continuous lawful residence. Any period of overstaying up to 28 days before 24th November 2016 will be disregarded, after this date only the period of overstaying up to 14 days will be disregarded.

Posted by: Gherson Immigration,  http://tinyurl.com/hwafuwv


Continuing Conflicts That Create Refugees – November 2016

Deteriorated Situations: Cameroon, DRC, Myanmar, Syria

Improved Situations: none

Outlook for December: Conflict Risk Alert, Democratic Republic of Congo

Resolution Opportunities: None

November saw violence escalate again in Syria, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cameroon. Attacks by pro-regime forces on rebel strongholds in Syria resumed, causing significant civilian casualties. In Myanmar’s Rakhine state intensifying violence displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, while a major attack by armed groups near the Chinese border threatened to undermine the country’s fragile ethnic peace process. In DRC, violence rose in the east and the regime continued to repress dissent, underscoring the risk that renewed protests, likely in December when President Kabila’s second term officially ends, could turn violent. In Cameroon, Boko Haram stepped up its attacks in the Far North and minority English-speakers clashed with security forces in the North West region. The victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election on 8 November created uncertainty about possible shifts in future U.S. foreign policy priorities and positions, including on a number of conflicts and prominent geostrategic arenas – among them the future of the historic multilateral nuclear accord with Iran.

CrisisWatch is a monthly early warning bulletin designed to provide a regular update on the state of the most significant situations of conflict around the world.

Read the full report for November 2016: http://tinyurl.com/hrls83b